South Africa block after India and Ajinkya Rahane turn the screw

2015South Africa resorted to dogged stonewalling in their pursuit of an improbable 481-run victory target after Ajinkya Rahane stroked his second century of the match to tighten India’s grip on the fourth and final Test on Sunday.

The hosts declared their second innings on 267 for five on the penultimate day at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, half an hour before the lunch break, as soon as Rahane (100) became the fifth Indian to score a century in each innings of a Test match.

Hashim Amla, the South Africa captain, led his side’s extraordinarily dour reply, taking 46 balls to get off the mark as the visitors crawled to 72 for two at stumps after 72 overs of relentless blocking over two dot ball-littered sessions. Amla was unbeaten after making 23 painstaking runs from 207 balls, while AB de Villiers managed 11 off 91 with South Africa still 409 behind the victory target.

The visitors lost Dean Elgar cheaply before Amla and Temba Bavuma (34) started blocking ball after ball in a desperate bid to take the match into the final day. Even after Ravichandran Ashwin bowled Bavuma, the score moved at a funereal pace as De Villiers too curbed his natural aggression, needing 33 balls to get off the mark. Despite the presence of De Villiers, one of contemporary cricket’s most destructive batsman, and Amla, one of its most fluent scorers, the first 10 overs of their partnership did not yield a single run and things did not improve later either.

“We have managed to hold them back and hopefully tomorrow, we can carry on with the same,” Bavuma said, confident his team can bat out three sessions to eke out a draw. “It’s a tough ask to bat out the 90 overs. It will be day five, so you expect the wicket to deteriorate even more. But we have the experience, we have the skill and whatever happens, we will be going down fighting. Definitely we will carry on the spirit tomorrow and try our best to salvage a draw out of this game.”

In a low-scoring series in which no other batsman from either side managed a single hundred, Rahane took 206 balls to bring up his second of the match and the sixth of his Test career with the help of eight boundaries and three sixes. After India resumed on 190 for four, Rahane played a couple of uppish drives before bending his knees for an upper-cut, chipping a Morne Morkel delivery over third man in an uncharacteristic show of aggression.

At the other end, captain Virat Kohli (88) added five runs to his overnight score before a low Kyle Abbott delivery trapped him leg before to end the 154-run fifth wicket partnership, the highest scoring one of the series. Rahane could not be denied his hundred, though. The 27-year-old slog-swept Imran Tahir over midwicket for his second six of the innings and stepped out against Elgar for his third to storm into the 90s. Rahane then took a quick single off leg-spinner Tahir to join an elite group of Indians that also included Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar (three times), Rahul Dravid (twice) and Kohli.

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